My husband and I are heading to Normandy for the FEI World Equestrian Games in September (yay!) and I'm in the midst of planing the rest of our trip. Hubby found wing shooting, which got my wheels turning....
Has anyone been hunting in France? How was is? Where did you find information and/or an introduction? As I understand it they hunt stag, which is has a quite different feel than our stateside hunts. Any insights would be much appreciated!
If you've been, any recommendations for a great hotel, or especially friendly hunt?
I live in Paris and have been out stag hunting. It is very different than hunting in the US or the UK, but worth a try as its quite a spectacle. There are no field masters, everyone is basically part of the hunt, and members communicate with horns - as a caveat, they ride French trotters, and so you may....well, trot... A LOT. Bring a flask Nick de Toldi runs Gourmet Fly, the website is listed above, he is great and can set up a day for you - PM me if you want some info on which hunt to go with. Happy to answer any other questions you might have!
So, a question: In fox hunting the fox is put to ground, rarely killed (my mom hunted 5x a week and was on one kill in 20 years). But I have heard that stags are often tackled (whatever it is called), and unlike the foxes end (which is quick), a pack taking down a stag is not. Has this changed, or ??? And wouldn't it be limited to the same times of year as fox hunting?? (i.e. not late spring/ summer/early fall
It is expected that a stag will be taken on each hunt. Much effort and thought goes into selecting which stag will be taken- it's part of overall herd management. The huntsman kills the stag after the hounds bring it to bay. Boar hunting in France is similar, huntsman dispatches the quarry. I haven't partaken of the sport yet but plan to this fall or next- but it really is a day-long spectacular, ending with venison for dinner- but humans don't eat until after the pack, with appropriate fanfare, has eaten the offal served on an appropriately large ceremonial platter. I understand that the stag's hide covers the offal, it's brought in, hide flipped back to allow hounds to eat.
So yes, full disclosure, this is real hunting. Food is procured, and put on the table. In a wonderfully ceremonial fashion.
I've been, and it's a blast. Plan for lots of hours in the saddle with few breaks. The french trotters we leased were fabulous, big enough for tall people, and they trotted and galloped at their own choice, and they are both about the same pace. People were very friendly, and every now and then when there was a break in the action the car followers were freely passing out the most amazing pate and cheese and sandwiches and wine, then suddenly you were off again. We hunted through a 30,000+ acre forest. The first day was a joint meet with lots of riders, the second there were only a handful of us mounted, and we were outnumbered by the car followers and bicyclist. We mainly hunted on the logging roads that divided the forest into multiple sections. You really do take your own line, just stay out of the way of the huntsman and staff, and if you have good instincts and you can see plenty of action. There is a lot of purposeful ceremony and the whole thing was treat.
FYI: Usually a tiring stag will take refuge in a body of water and one of the car followers has a small boat atop his vehicle. The huntsman will row out to the stage and dispatch it with a large dagger.